Vikings is a medieval drama series airing on The History Channel. It follows Norse warrior Ragnar Lodbrok and his group of Vikings on their first forays into England. It's loosely based on the existing sagas of Ragnar Sigurdsson, known as Ragnar Lodbrok,note "Hairy-Breeches" or "Shaggy-pants" if you want so. There are numerous translations of Lođbrók but most often it's left untranslated, for obvious reasons. a legendary Norse figure. Much like the Icelandic sagas from which it is adapted, Vikings is an exploration of human conflicts set against the backdrop of a grim, violent society.Ragnar Lodbrok is presented as a raider of some standing and a farmer who owes his allegiance to Earl Haraldson; a once great warrior but who now feels the weight of age and loss coming down upon him and who feels his power slipping from his grasp. For many years, Haraldson has commanded his warriors to raid the Baltic states and Russia - places long since plundered dry by generations of Northmen. Ragnar instead looks west, dreaming of the riches and glory that will await any man brave enough to sail the open sea. Ragnar's dreams of conquest and discovery brings him into conflict with the conservative Earl; who begins to fear that Ragnar's ambition will ultimately lead to the end of his rule. The plot thickens and twists from thereon.The series garnered excellent reception from critics and managed to achieve extremely good ratings in its first season. Halfway through the first season's run, a second was greenlit, which aired on Febuary 27th 2014.The first season was nominated for 3 Emmy awards.
Earl Harald's backstory. His sons were brutally murdered, leaving him a shell of a man.
Both Lagertha's and Siggy's daughters sicken and die of a fever.
Ragnar comes back to Kattegat to find his daughter dead, rumors of his infidelity have already spread from Gotland causing his marriage to slowly fray apart, several of his friends dead and his wife leaving him and taking their son.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: Some viewers are skeptical to the tattooed vikings such as Rollo and the eye make-up worn by Floki. These features are actually described by Arabian merchants in contact with vikings.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: The Vikings see Athelstan's celibacy as bizarre. He may have lost his virginity at Uppsala, but it's left vague.
Anglo-Saxons: The Vikings are the main protagonists of the show, but their discovery of England and subsequent conflicts with the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants form a major plot point.
Annoying Arrows: Ragnar is shot in the shoulder with an arrow that penetrates all the way through when Haraldson attacks his home, but he's still able to fight his way out of a few tight jams before collapsing from his various wounds. Other characters not protected by Plot Armor are felled by various arrows, however.
Anti-Hero: Ragnar and his troupe are pillaging murderers, but they're the heroes of this story.
Earl Haraldson is a petty despot who dominates and persecutes his people.
King Aella is a despot who punishes failure with torturous executions.
Jarl Borg is a deceitful snake who sows dissension and betrayal amongst his enemies.
Armor Is Useless: The Vikings have no problem hacking through armored English soldiers, usually while wearing no armor themselves. Ragnar wears a coat of ring armor for his duel with the Earl, and the only wound he receives is a slash that goes right through the coat.
Arranged Marriage: The Earl marries his daughter to an old Swedish Earl for 20 lbs of silver. Earlier he offers her hand to Rollo as payment for a favor.
Artistic License - History: This show attempts to portray the single murkiest period of Medieval history, so they had to take liberties. Not to mention that what little information they have is either unreliable due to being written by hostile Christian witnesses or semi-mythological in nature like the Scandinavian sagas (which are otherwise a good source of information).
The attack on Lindisfarne happened in 793, Ragnar Lothbrok was presumably killed in the 860s. While not totally impossible, especially since the dates concerning him are not very precise, it is highly unlikely that he lead the attack on Lindisfarne, or was even born at this point.
Lagertha is a "shieldmaiden" who is readily accepted as a fellow warrior by the male Vikings. Although shieldmaidens appear in Norse folklore, there is little historical evidence beyond the account of the Siege of Dorostolon that they existed. Through the sagas mentions them several times.
The presentation of Norse law: Haraldsson is shown prosecuting a man for murder. In actuality, that would have fallen to the deceased next of kin.
The show portrays Ragnar as a warrior who begins to rise to fame and eventually kingship. According to the saga, he is actually prince of Denmark and Sweden and becomes king of both countries after his father's death. His father, Sigurd Hring, had won the throne of Norway and Denmark in the Battle of Bravalla against the legendary Scandinavian king Harald Wartooth. According to the Chronicon Lethranse, Harald Wartooth's empire reached as far afield as the Mediterranean.
Women are shown casting votes in Norse society. While it is a fact that Norse women enjoyed a far better position than that of mainland European women, the Norse weren't quite this progressive. Voting would be cast in the name of the whole household.
Vikings didn't practice capital punishment as such. Rather, those convicted of heinous crimes were declared outlaws; which is to say, they are literally outside the protection of the law, and may be killed with impunity.
It is said that Horik's father was killed by his brothers and that he ascended to his throne by defeating them. In history, Horik's father, King Gudfred was killed by a housekarl. After that, Horik's uncle Hemming (a cousin of his father) took the throne but did not last long. Then, Horik drove out Harald Klak and thus became sole king of Denmark as he was the only son of King Gudfred alive.
In the show, Bjorn Ironside is the son of Ragnar by Lagertha. In the saga, he was the son of Ragnar by Aslaug.
Part of the plot hinges on England and the west in general being unknown territory to the Vikings before the events of series. This was not the case.
There is a scene in episode 8 featuring the Norsemen eating psychoactive fly agaric. Through it's a widespread idea that the vikings may have used this in some cases to evoke berserker rages, there are no contemporary sources of the viking age stating the use of such mushrooms.
Earl Haraldsson mentions Russia. Russia did not yet exist in the 8th century. As a matter of fact, it was being founded by a confederation of Eastern Slavic tribes led by a Swedish subset of the Vikings, the Rus. Thus "Russia".
During a storm on the first voyage to England, Floki lays out the Vikings' beliefs that lightning is the sparks coming off Thor's anvil as he beats it with his hammer to a group of Vikings who explicitly already know this.
Jarl Borg notes to his fellow Norsemen that Yggdrasil is the tree that holds up the heavens.
Badass Beard: Most of the Vikings sport very impressive beards.
Badass Crew: Ragnar's warband seems to be the toughest group of warriors around.
Badass Grandpa: Tostig is a veteran of many raiding campaigns and has survived them all, to his chagrin. He asks to join the next raid in spite of his age because he wants one last chance to die in battle and join his comrades in Valhalla.
Bad Boss: Due to Earl Haraldson's greed and paranoia, it can be just as dangerous to be one of his loyal followers as being one of his enemies. He goes as far as to give one of his men the permission to sleep with the Earl's wife and then have the man executed when he takes the Earl up on the offer.
Beard of Barbarism: The Vikings have wild, barbarous (and impressive) beards in contrast to the simple beards or clean-shaven looks of Saxons .
Bilingual Bonus: That's actual Old Norse and Old English they're speaking, or as close as most linguists can get.
Black and Gray Morality: Ragnar, a murdering, thieving, kidnapping, Viking raider, is presented as our main hero. The villains are only presented as such in that they oppose Ragnar's goals and commit even worse crimes than he does.
Blatant Lies: Ragnar's claim that he and his men are traders to the Northumbrian sheriff who meets them when they land in England for the second time. While the sheriff himself seems to desperately be trying to believe it, the claim is quickly disproven when Floki steals a cross from a Northumbrian soldier, and the two sides set about killing each other. This actually happened according to the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, mind you.
Blind Seer: The Seer's eyes appear to be sewn shut.
“Where are you Lord? Tell me… is it your will that I am here with these heathens? How does it serve you? I don’t understand and for the first time in my life I am angry with you. You allow my brothers to be slaughtered and sold. Is this really your will? for the first time… I feel lonely. Where are you, Lord? Where are you? And why don’t you answer me?”
Darker and Edgier: Season 2 as compared to Season 1. Not that the latter was a barrel of laughs by any stretch of the imagination, but the show's second season is bloodier, more tragic, the characters are darker, and the villains are far more threatening. In the first season there was a sense of glory and adventure, in the second, there's a feeling of doom and dire portents.
Death Seeker: Tostig is upset that all of his raiding friends have died in battle and left him behind. He wants to rejoin them in Valhalla.
The Vikings treat rape and pillage like just another fact of life.
The finer points of Viking law:
If you kill someone in self-defense, you have to report the killing to the nearest household. You may walk past two houses if you think the families are kin of the dead and will try to attack you, but only two.
Thieves are made to run the gauntlet, with everyone required to pelt him with stuff.
Slaves have absolutely no rights or protection. Athelstan observes that a man can rape a slave without consequence, but not a free woman, and that Ragnar could legally kill him and suffer no consequence.
Every man sworn to a chief is required to attend an assembly (Thing) where cases are heard so they can expect jury duty. "Every man" includes what we'd call minors today.
The cultural divide between the English and the Norse.
The Vikings see being sacrificed to the gods as a great honour and a sacred duty.
The Vikings' casual attitude towards death may be unnerving to some modern viewers, but it was fairly natural given their religious and cultural outlook.
Ragnar suggests practicing polygamy. He states, "I have heard of such arrangements," then follows up by asserting, "In fact, it's quite common!" However, his family's horrified reaction, and the fact that he has to explain what he's proposing, suggest that the practice is not as common as he claims. Lagertha effectively divorces him to prevent the "arrangement" from going forward.
Dung Ages: Most characters have a certain degree of dirt and stains on their skin and clothing. Medieval towns are generally shown to be pretty muddy places. Overall, Britain looks a little cleaner, from what we see, but historians believe that medieval Scandinavians were unusually clean and well-groomed for their location and time period.
Earl Haraldson orders that the body of an executed man be fed to the pigs. Ragnar disapproves since the condemned man did not deserve such a dishonor.
After some of his men are killed in battle, Ragnar and the other Vikings take the time to bury them properly and even have a Libation for the Dead over their graves.
Inverted with the murders of Earl Haraldson's sons. The killers dishonored them and their father by burying them with their severed heads kissing their buttocks. They were also buried in a shallow grave so animals could get to the bodies.
The funeral of Earl Haraldson is a major affair with a lot of drinking, fighting and ends in a Viking Funeral and a Human Sacrifice of a female slave to join her master in the afterlife.
Elephant in the Living Room: After the Norse make a reference to Ragnarok, Athelstan asks what it is, resulting in awkward silence until he changes the subject. He eventually wears them down.
Evil Uncle: King Horik's six uncles killed his father, mother and siblings. He won his throne by challenging and then killing them one by one.
Fish out of Water: Athelstan, an English monk among Pagan Vikings. He takes to their ways with slow, yet growing aplomb.
The Fundamentalist: Floki is the most religious of Ragnar's group. He's the only one to criticize Rollo for going through a baptism and is the first to try to volunteer for human sacrifice.
Glasgow Grin: Rollo gets one courtesy of Haraldson's torture.
God Is Good: Discussed between Athelstan and Ragnar. As a faithful priest, Athelstan believes He is good and vikings are a punishment from Him for his people's sins. Ragnar says He is greedy (for stuffing the monastary with gold) and stupid (for not protecting that gold).
God Is Inept: How Ragnar and the other Vikings see the Christian God.
Good Hair, Evil Hair: Many Vikings, including our hero Ragnar, have elaborate hairstyles that make them look like bikers or heavy metal rock stars, reminding us that these are badass Vikings.
Good People Have Good Sex: Ragnar and Lagertha, while being firm antiheroes, have a passionate and satisfying sex life. Meanwhile, it's implied that Earl Haraldson has grown impotent in his old age.
Good Shepherd: Athelstan takes his vocation seriously; his "greatest treasure" is an unadorned Bible, and he refuses to join a threesome with Ragnar and Lagertha because of his vow of celibacy. Ragnar is so impressed with his character he puts him in charge of the family farm while he's gone.
Ragnar: I do not think of him as a slave. He is a responsible person.
Happiness in Slavery: Downplayed; Athelstan is 'not interested' in escaping, but he'd rather be a free man. Of course, he's also well aware that he's incapable of fighting and far away from home in a strange land - even if he were to escape, he realizes he doesn't really stand a chance at getting home.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: Rollo, who is constantly torn between loyalty to Ragnar and bitterness at living in his brother's shadow.
Few of the Vikings wear helmets into battle, and those that we see don't have horns. Most Vikings in real life were too poor to own a helmet, but Ragnar's elite group passes up many opportunities to loot helmets and armor from their many foes.
Most of the English soldiers wear helmets, revealing their status as mooks, while their armored commanders often go bareheaded.
When Ragnar is recruiting followers, the Viking who is most vocally opposed to the idea of going to England is named "Knut." Ironically, a Danish prince also named Cnut would invade England and become its second Viking King (the first being his father, Svein Forkbeard's, brief reign) toward the end of the Viking Era.
Depending on how this show pans out later, this can turn into a stellar example of Foreshadowing. Floki, in the first episode, jokes about how Bjorn looks like Ragnar and how he will try to do better than him to move out of the shadow of that, and then of how Ragnar will hate him for that. In the Norse saga, this is exactly what happened, and much of Ragnar's later actions were motivated by his fear that his sons would eclipse him in fame.
Two of Ragnar's men, Eric and Leif, are father and son. They're named after the explorers Eric the Red and his more famous son Leif Ericsson who landed in North America. But they're not them since they live centuries too early and they die.
Horik remarks on how he has heard of Christians in the eighth episode. Historically, Horik's predecessor had converted to Christianity, and Horik himself fiercely resisted attempts by Saint Ansgar of Hamburg-Bremen to proselytize the Danes.
Rollo remarks in the same episode on how one day he will be a great man. Not only did he establish Normandy, but almost every European ruler can trace his decent to him. To date, only a few other individuals have contributed more to Europe than he has.
Possible foreshadowing: Mark King Aella's Snake Pit because that's how Ragnar dies in the sagas. Earlier, Ragnar likened himself to a boar and his son to a piglet, which brings to mind his Famous Last Words: "How the little pigs would grunt if they knew how the old boar suffers!"
When encountering a numerically superior force, Ragnar's Vikings step out to face them on an open beach rather than stay in the narrow choke point they started at. It doesn't matter, however, because the Saxon soldiers never even try to flank them.
The Englishmen later seek out the Vikings but hold off on a surprise attack because the Vikings are "in too strong a position". The Englishmen are on a hill, Ragnar's men are on a flat and directly behind them is the Tyne, which would prevent any retreat. Seriously, what were you waiting for, the invention of gunpowder?!
Honor Before Reason: After Ragnar's sword breaks, the Earl lets Ragnar smash their shields to bits and then tosses his own sword away so that they can pause to re-arm themselves with axes. This might be due to the duel's ritualistic nature.
Horny Vikings: The main characters are Vikings, and their pillaging is largely influential to the plot. One horned helm is witnessed, but it has ceremonial use that is true to life.
A slave girl is sacrificed as part of a Viking Funeral. This element is present in Ahmed Ibn Fadlan's account of the Rus.
Nine people are sacrificed by the Uppsala temple. The sacrifices must be willing and believers in the Norse gods.
I Am X, Son of Y: This is what Earl Haraldson's name is, but we never learn the X part of his name, so it's moot. The children are also referred to in this manner. For instance, lots of people call Bjorn, "son of Ragnar." This is Truth in Television as families didn't have a familial name - what we would think of a last name was simply the name of their father plus a suffix of son or daughter. Individuals might have last names that were basically titles, but they did not function as family names.
Icy Blue Eyes: As the show poster suggests, Ragnar's icy, blue-eyed gaze is frequently lingered upon, and he shows no hesitation in killing.
Important Haircut: After Athelstan is tempted to go native with his new Viking owners, he shaves his stubbled tonsure to reaffirm his commitment to his monk lifestyle. As he becomes more invested in Norse culture, however, he gets increasingly hairy.
Instant Expert: Ragnar asks Athelstan to teach him some English. When he arrives in England, he's proficient enough to hold fluent conversations with natives. The time between the two scenes is unclear, and we never see him practicing.
Earl Haraldson is pompous, arrogant, and forces others to say what a great ruler he is.
Earl Bjarni casually threatens to beat his wife if she doesn't get him some herrings.
Kangaroo Court: The first episode has the Earl hold court over a murder trial involving a land dispute. The Earl is obviously angry because he wanted the land for himself. Everyone votes against the man to placate the Earl. When Ragnar's son does not raise his hand, the Earl pointedly insists that the boy join with the rest.
Lady Macbeth: Siggy serves this role for Earl Haraldson, though she doesn't support some of his more paranoid endeavors. When she shacks up with Rollo, it's not long before she's up to her old tricks.
Last Name Basis: Earl Haraldson's first name is not revealed, which is strange considering that "Haraldson" is a patronymic, not a surname, so he should be called "Earl [First Name]."
A Lighter Shade of Grey: Ragnar specifically is this compared to some of the other Vikings; he spares some of the monks at the monastery they raid, he seems honestly interested in the prospect of diplomacy with their first meeting with the Englishmen, and while raiding a church he declares that those who don't resist their plundering the treasure will be spared - and he holds to that. More than anything, the show presents his primary virtue as his forward-thinking attitude and thirst for knowledge.
Lovable Rogue: Ragnar is a plunderer but he knows limits and is an affable guy.
Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: Vikings are often seen with their circular wooden shields. They hammer on them with their axes before battle. Most battles involve shield wall tactics.
Made a Slave: This happens to Athelstan and the monks of Lindisfarne that were spared during the raid.
Magic Realism: Ragnar has a vision of Odin and valkyries after a battle in the first scene of the show and more throughout the series. It's deliberately left unclear whether they are supernatural visions or if he's just hallucinating.
Manipulative Bastard: Earl Haraldson tries, though he is often stymied by his pessimistic assumptions that all men are as greedy and underhanded as he is.
Mauve Shirt: Erik Marteinn, who looked set to be The Big Guy in Ragnar's team, gets killed in episode four.
Meaningful Name: It is noted that Floki has a name that sounds like Loki. He resembles the trickster god's role in many ways: a close ally to the hero on his travels, as Loki is to Thor (Ragnar, in this case); not a muscular warrior, but his intelligence is of great help (Floki builds their ship and imparts important advice to Ragnar); frequently causes mischief and trouble (needlessly burning down the monastery, causing a battle by ripping a crucifix off a soldier).
Athelstan seems to hallucinate when the details of Ragnarök are told to him. It might have something to do with what they put in the fire to make it smoke.
Ragnar's group eats mushrooms at the Uppsala temple. We see some of Athelstan's trip from his perspective. Humrously enough, the mushrooms themself look suspiciously like chanterelles, and not fly agaric, the only psychoactive (and very poisonous) mushroom of Scandinavia.
Ominous Latin Chanting: Norse chanting, in this case. During the second viking raid, a song by Wardruna is played using authentic viking-age instruments. It features men and women chanting quotes from the rune poems in Old Norse about how wealth is the joy and source of discord among men and the path of the serpent.
Only a Flesh Wound: Ragnar receives multiple wounds in the fight against Earl Haraldson's men but keeps on fighting without much loss of competence. Then the fighting ends as the blood loss almost kills him. The wounds are severe enough that it takes him months to recover. Presumably he is badass enough to ignore the wounds during the fight on pure adrenaline.
Pet the Dog: Rollo. After all his previous Kick The Dog moments, in the fourth episode Rollo is seen giving a sick, old Englishman water instead of killing him (he then steals the cup and pitcher, however) and testifying on behalf of his brother in court, when he could have betrayed him for treasure and a good marriage.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: All of the Vikings. Their idea of paradise is fighting all day and feasting all night.
Rated M for Manly: It's a show about Vikings based off Old Norse poetry and legendary sagas.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Rape is always used as a Kick the Dog moment for characters, but Norse culture is ambivalent about it. Rollo rapes a slave girl and is teased as a villain. Knut's attempted rape of a free Norse woman is played as a clear indication of villainy. Our hero Ragnar's only mention of rape is to condemn its use against his wife.
Rule of Symbolism: See that funny V symbol? It incorporates the Valknut, the stripes on a longship's sail and the symbol of Yggdrasil and the blade of a sword to fully encompass the beliefs and traditions of the Norse as a people.
There are those sweeping scenery shots in episode 8, and also the shot of the temple of Uppsala sitting majestically on a hill. Inaccurate in that Uppsala is flat-land, but damn, it looks gorgeous.
The shot of the mountains when Athelstan is first brought to Kattegat. So feral, so untamed, so glorious.
Secret Test of Character: Earl Haraldson offers his wife to one of his spies. The man accepts, so the Earl has him executed. It's presented as an example of the Earl's villainous paranoia.
Sexy Priest: Athelstan has a few admirers in the fanbase.
Shown Their Work: One of the problems the show's creators faced when making this was that there are just so few sources that accurately represent the Norse. After all, like the Mongols, their history was written primarily by the people they beat the shit out of. So, the showrunners had to rely primarily on Scandinavian sagas to paint a somewhat factual representation of them. Even so, this show has gotten a lot of things right in regards to history:
Norse dress and appearance is represented mostly accurately.
Ragnar is shown waiting until villagers are at Mass before raiding a Christian settlement. This was indeed the favoured tactic of Ragnar Lodbrok, according to the sagas.
The duel between Haraldson and Ragnar, a holmgang, is very accurately represented. Down to Svein's formal recitation of the rules of the duel, and the two parties meeting on a pre-specified plot of land. Even the shields are right, with both men having helpers who give them their shield replacements. The back-up weapon rule is also historically accurate. Historically, early holmgangs did indeed end with death. Though later on, first blood and other such measures were implemented to curb that. The only thing that seems to be missing is that a sheet was supposed to be placed on the ground to mark the area, and four posts were to be placed at each corner of the sheet.
Floki's shipbuilding lecture in the first episode is legit.
The description of the Uppsala temple is taken directly from Adam of Bremen, althrough that source has been questioned as Adam of Bremen never went there himself. The temple, or a building used for religious cermonies, was probably real but we will probably never know if it look like that.
Way back in the first episode, Ragnar tells Bjorn the story of how he won Lagertha's hand in marriage - by killing an enormous bear with his spear and strangling a giant hound, the animals who guarded her home. This is taken word for word from the Gesta Danorum as penned by Saxo Grammaticus.
In one episode, the Vikings land in England and are mistaken as traders by an official, who they then murder when he attempts to lead them to the Royal Villa of the King so that they may pay a trading tax upon their goods. This entire sequence actually happened according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
The practice of a heathen converting to Christianity in order to seal a deal when the Vikings dealt with the Saxons is one that appears in many historical instances. For instance, to seal the Peace of Wedmore, the Viking Guthrum was baptized into Christianity with the Anglo-Saxon name of Athelstan and accepted King Alfred the Great as his adoptive father. The Vikings treating the baptism in a non-serious manner as seen in the show also has some basis in historical fact; the conversions were commonly seen as merely a legal binding, and often did little to reduce the Viking's hold on the areas they conquered in England.
Ragnar accurately and beautifully quotes the Runatal, the story of how Odin found the runes by sacrificing himself with his own spear on Yggdrasil.
Rollo's tattoos seem to be representations of Skol and Hati, the sons of Fenrir Hrodvitnir.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Ragnar's favourite type of sex with Lagertha seems to be make-up sex.
The Smart Guy: Floki, the shipbuilder, who designs a state-of-the-art boat that can make the trip to England. He also turns out to have a fair bit of medical knowledge. He's still a Viking, however, so he's more interested in seeing how parchment burns than studying its detailed drawings.
Stealth Pun: Given how many people wouldn't recognize it. When Ragnar says "when the little pig teaches the boar how to listen," he wasn't calling himself a pervert. The boar is the symbol of the fertility God Frey. Given the scene right before the quote is said, he's saying he's still horny, thus why Lagertha shoves him.
Stockholm Syndrome: Aethelstan's respect and affection for Ragnar's family grows over time in spite of the fact that Ragnar violently enslaved him. However, part of the reason Aethelstan sticks around is because Ragnar treats him well and he has nowhere else to go.
A Threesome Is Hot: Norsemen seem curiously fond of double-teaming their women. Ragnar and Lagertha invite Athelstan to join them in bed. Later, Floki invites another of Ragnar's raiders to bed with him and Helga. Jarl Borg recalls sharing women with his brother.
Timeshifted Actor: In Season 1, Ragnar's son Bjorn was played by Nathan O'Toole but will also be played by older actor Alexander Ludwig in Season 2.
Time Skip: Four years passes between episodes one and two of the second season.
To Be Lawful or Good; By law Ragnar must obey Earl Haraldson and sail east to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. However, he believes that he should do the right thing and sail west to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. He goes to a seer for advice on what to do and the seer tells him that if he can gain the favour of the gods, they will override the laws for him. Ragnar seems to interpret this to mean that if he is highly successful in his endeavor, the Earl will not be able to successfully punish him for disobedience.
Token Evil Teammate: Rollo is teased as this. He supports and follows Ragnar, but he's a rapist, hits on his brother's wife (even after she rebuffs him multiple times), and resents Ragnar's successes. His most redeeming quality is his Undying Loyalty through multiple opportunities to betray Ragnar. He succumbs when Jarl Borg subverts him to his cause, but Rollo can't bear to fight his brother, and so throws down his weapon before him. He then willingly submits to justice and shows true remorse over his actions. In other words, this trope is subverted.
Token Good Teammate: Athelstan is the only completely moral, kind and non-murderous hero, though he's also the most naďve. He even shows respect and great interest in the Norsemen's religion despite being a devout Catholic priest. As he immerses himself in their way of living however, his virtue begins to dim as he finds himself torn between the humble Christian scholar and the savage Viking raider.
Too Dumb to Live: King Aella's brother. At first he seems competent enough, refusing to fight the norsemen where they have the advantage, but then he fails to put sentries around his camp; when the Vikings attack that night, Aella's brother starts praying instead of going out to fight, and by the time he's done his entire force has been defeated.
Rollo is this to both Ragnar and his wife, Lagertha, as well is the Earl and his wife.
Ragnar has this with Lagertha and Aslaug.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Haraldson's beautiful young daughter is married to an old and ugly Swedish Earl. Until she annuls it with a stabbing.
Undignified Death: Earl Haraldson's sons are brutally murdered their heads cut off and set against their backside, and left in a shallow grave as a sign of disrespect for their father.
Warrior Poet: Rollo chants a poem on the inevitability of death to lend courage and resolve to his shield-brothers during a battle with the Saxons. Ragnar quotes the Rúnatal - the story of how Odin won the runes as given in the Hávamál. Historically, the Norse viewed poems and sagas to be very manly.
Viewers Are Geniuses: The second teaser trailer places the characters under the world tree Yggdrasil and is so full of references to Norse Mythology that one could make a competition out of naming the most. Ragnar is Odin, Aslaug is Freyja, Lagertha is a valkyrie, Athelstan is Tyr, king Ecbert is Fenrir, king Horik is Jörmungandr, Floki is Heimdal, Siggy is Sigyn and Rollo is Loki. The red rooster is Fjalar and the deer is Dain. The tattoo on Rollo's left arm is of Sköll, the son of Fenrir that chases the sun. Sköll means "Treachery".
Viking Funeral: Episode six has an example, taken almost entirely out of Ahmed Ibn Fadlan's account of the Rus.
The Watson: As an outsider, Athelstan receives a lot of exposition about Norse society and culture.
We Can Rule Together: The Earl offers to make Rollo his son-in-law and thus presumed heir in exchange for Rollo testifying against Ragnar at trial. Rollo is certainly tempted to take the offer but in the end supports Ragnar.
Wham Episode: The show was going fairly smoothly with the tension slowly rising... until "Raid": Earl Haraldson burns down Ragnar's farm and drives him into hiding, captures and tortures Rollo, and marries his daughter off to a Swedish Earl. A good five or six months go by while the characters heal from the damage.
Worthy Opponent: Earl Haraldson reveals that he likes Ragnar and that Ragnar is not much different from how the Earl was in his youth. However, due to Viking politics, the Earl cannot allow Ragnar to succeed since it would erode the Earl's power base and he cannot trust Ragnar not to try to usurp him. Ragnar sees Haraldson in a similar manner.
Would Hurt a Child: Earl Haraldson has Svein kill a 13-year-old boy so as to protect the Earl's treasures in the afterlife.